Humble Wheat Germ Shines for Fatty Liver in New Study

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From grain discards to liver remedy - scientists unlock the potential of wheat germ to target the rampant fatty liver condition that current drugs have failed to tame

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has reached epidemic proportions, affecting over 25% of people globally.1 With no definitive pharmaceutical treatments, scientists have turned attention to dietary and lifestyle modifications for managing this pervasive condition.

Emerging research now points to a promising natural therapy - simple wheat germ, that humble grain embryo routinely discarded during processing. In a 2022 double-blind trial, regular wheat germ consumption significantly improved liver fat, enzymes, cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammation in NAFLD patients.2

Testing Wheat Germ’s Metabolic Effects

Previous animal and in vitro studies indicate bioactive compounds in wheat germ like octacosanol and policosanols may activate fat metabolism pathways.3 Hoping to extend these biological effects to humans, Iranian researchers recruited 50 adults diagnosed with NAFLD using transient elastography (FibroScan).

For 12 weeks, half the participants consumed 40 grams daily of raw wheat germ while controls received a visually identical placebo. The wheat germ group experienced marked declines in liver enzymes ALT and GGT along with reduced hepatic steatosis over the study period compared to placebo - suggesting less liver inflammation and fewer fat deposits.2 Wheat germ supplementation also lowered cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammatory marker HS-CRP while boosting antioxidant status2 - cumulative benefits that could mitigate NAFLD progression long-term.

Implications for Clinical Practice

"These compelling findings make a case for incorporating wheat germ into NAFLD nutritional counseling," says gastroenterologist Dr. Betul Kocaadam-Bozkurt, co-author on the recent trial. "Given wheat germ's stellar safety profile and low cost, it offers an accessible and scalable therapy for the millions struggling to control this silent disease."

Indeed, the study data combined with wheat germ's high fiber levels point to a safe, affordable adjunct for addressing NAFLD through dietary means - one that doesn't require eliminating beloved foods or sweets. For NAFLD patients overwhelmed with intensive dieting demands, simple wheat germ supplementation may offer liver protection without requiring major habit overhaul.  

Of course, larger and longer clinical trials are warranted to guide clinical recommendations. But for now, adding a few heaping tablespoons of wheat germ into your morning smoothie or yogurt looks to benefit metabolic health with minimal downside. 

Learn more about the health benefits of wheat germ on our database on the subject here.

Learn more about natural approaches to NAFL, which include over 230 natural substances which you can view here.


References

1. Younossi ZM, Koenig AB, Abdelatif D, Fazel Y, Henry L, Wymer M. Global epidemiology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-Meta-analytic assessment of prevalence, incidence, and outcomes. Hepatology. 2016 Jul;64(1):73-84.  

2. Salehi-Sahlabadi A, Kord-Varkaneh H, Kocaadam-Bozkurt B, Seraj SS, Alavian SM, Hekmatdoost A. Wheat germ improves hepatic steatosis, hepatic enzymes, and metabolic and inflammatory parameters in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2022 Nov;36(11):4201-4209.  

3. Qureshi AA, Abuirmeileh N, Din ZZ, Elson CE, Burger WC. Inhibition of cholesterol and fatty acid biosynthesis in liver enzymes and chicken hepatocytes by polar fractions of garlic. Lipids. 1983 Sep;18(5):343-8.

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